Category Archives: Students

Coming Full Circle

by Kim Major, associate director of admission

Last week was my favorite week of the year, hands down. While my children think I am crazy (they think the last day of summer vacation is the worst!), I know I am right. You see, last week was orientation for our new students and the start of our new academic year here at George School.

So, why was that the best? I mean, the start of the academic year to faculty and admission officers means back to long workdays. It means many, many meetings. It means late nights, tired eyes, and no more trips to the beach or the pool. I already miss those trips to the beach and the pool. HOWEVER, what it also means is that I get to see the fruits of last year’s labor. All of the students with whom I worked so hard last year – at admission events, in interviews, in follow-up phone calls, meetings, and emails – I get to see all of them on campus, here and now as students!

Over the last year, I got to know 170 new students, most of them in person in some capacity. I knew we admitted a rocketry wizard, and I got to make sure our robotics and engineering faculty knew about her. I knew we had at least four students who count ukulele as a big-time hobby, and I got to let them know about one another (some pretty cool jam sessions are about to go down in our dorms). I knew that one of our students had a really challenging summer and was feeling a bit down, and I got to make sure his advisor was prepared to offer a little extra love. I got to understand, before the rest of the school, that our new students are going to knock the socks off of our faculty and returning students. Now everyone gets to know it and I get to see the joy that brings.

Many people see admission officers as gatekeepers, standing at the school doors and judging who gets to come in. While we certainly have a difficult task in making admission decisions, we aren’t gatekeepers. No, I see myself more as a matchmaker. Through the admission process, I help students to navigate the admission process (and sometimes that means helping them to find a match that is better suited to their particular needs). And, when the school year starts, my matchmaker skills kick into high gear as the entire school prepares to welcome them. I help in the faculty advising and roommate pairing processes and work with families to match them with the resources they will need to get started here at George School.

So, when move-in and registration days roll around, it all comes together, and it is magic. The best part? I know that I have two, three, or four years more with these students and I get to see all the dreams they talked about in the application process come true – and I get to see them discover new dreams they didn’t even know they had!

That, to me, is what makes George School so special. New students aren’t a number. Each new student is a person, a part of a family, a dreamer, a do-er, an artist, an athlete, and so much more. When they start their first day here, they start with many, many people knowing quite a bit about who they are, and they already have a jumpstart in helping them to reach their goals.

Here’s to another terrific year!

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Filed under A Day in the Life, Admission Office, Faculty and Staff, Students

Friends Council on Education Statement – August 15, 2017

The violent expressions of hatred, racism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism in Charlottesville, Virginia were directly opposed to the values our schools stand for. These events serve to deepen our commitment at Quaker schools to teach our students habits of heart and mind that insist upon a disposition of openness and respect for every member of our community regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, place of national origin, gender identity or gender expression.  

As we wrote in November:

William Penn founded the first Quaker school in 1689, one hundred years prior to the formal addition of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution.  Penn directed that the school educate students from all walks of life, genders, religions, and ethnicities to prepare them to be moral leaders within the Commonwealth no matter what profession or trade that they might someday pursue.

Penn’s school created a program of study through which these young people might together imagine a more ideal society. Today all Quaker schools strive to serve this critical public purpose just a Penn imagined it in the earliest days of what would become the United States.

In time of uncertainty, and deep distrust, Quaker school communities turn to the Quaker values of peace, integrity, equality and community, as well as the longtime practices of peaceful conflict resolution and nonviolence, as touch points for navigating these turbulent waters.

It is our sincere hope that as children everywhere return to school that they may come together, in the spirit of respect for all, to find a way to listen deeply to one another, to value the gifts that all students bring with them to school everyday, that they might, together, imagine an ideal society.

Each of the 78 Quaker schools across the United States is founded on core Quaker values and practices. These principles strive to address issues of societal injustice. Friends schools seek to create inclusive and diverse communities and to live into the Quaker values of peace, equity, and social justice.

Friends Council on Education supports schools in their efforts to teach for justice and equity. To that end, we lift up just a few examples of how Quaker schools and Quaker school educators are actively working to provide students with skills in mediation, conversations about differences, and peaceful ways for resolving differences.

Upper school students have a social justice collective where they meet weekly to engage in conversations utilizing the model of Intergroup Dialogue. (Germantown Friends School)

Students participate in a Peer Facilitator Training Program that strives to provide students with skills in asking open ended questions, clarifying and summarizing what you have heard, giving respectful feedback – all with the goal of preempting conflict. (Media-Providence Friends School)

The social curriculum serves as a foundation for a Social Justice Unit as early as preschool focusing on fairness, inclusion, and community. (Friends School Haverford)

Upper school students team up with students at other independent schools to host a student-led Mid Atlantic Regional Diversity Conference. Students explore issues of identity (sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age, ability, socioeconomic status, gender, and religion) through activities that encourage building community and leaning into discomfort. (Abington Friends School)

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Why College Means a Lot to me

2017-02-20-07

Here is Bea in her Oxford University t-shirt.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

College has a different connotation in every household. In some, it is a necessity. In others, it is uncommon. In my house, it is expected, but I knew I could make whatever choice I needed. But, I have always wanted to go to college.

Not only do I want to go to college, I want to go to a highly selective school. When I was around twelve, I got my heart set on Oxford University in Oxford, England. The school is globally ranked in many subjects and the more I read, the more I liked. I ended up at George School to get the IB diploma to increase my chances of getting in. Now, in my sophomore year, I think I want to stay domestic for my undergraduate degree and go to Oxford for my graduate degree. I am considering schools like Stanford, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins. I am working with a private college counselor to help improve my application.

College has come to mean a lot to me. I know I have the freedom to take whatever path I wish, but I want to learn. I want to do research and study. More than anything, college offers me a place to do that. I want to go to schools with globally recognizable programs. I want to be overqualified for any position I could possibly want. College is not my end goal, but rather the beginning of a hopefully successful future.

Schools like the ones I am looking at are considered lottery schools. Going into my junior year, my grades and courses are increasingly important. For me, this is just another lap in the race. For some, it is the start. It is time to go on college tours and talk to admissions officers. People are starting and joining clubs to boost their application. I am looking for job and research experience, but also leadership positions. And of course, I am trying to balance a social life as well.

The college process is by no means easy, but for some, it is the way to go. For me, I know college is the next step. For others, it might not be. Regardless of what people want to study, what kind of degree they want to get, or if they want to go to college at all, junior year is going to be a difficult and stressful time.

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Filed under Life After George School, Student Work, Students, The Curious George

An Ongoing Commitment

by Sam Houser

At a time when transgender rights are again in the news, I am writing to affirm George School’s own commitment to welcoming and including students and employees who are transgender or gender non-binary, or whose families may include members who identify as transgender or gender non-binary. Similarly, we welcome the presence, active engagement, talents, and support of our graduates who identify as transgender or gender non-binary.

In April of 2015, the George School Board approved a policy stating the school’s intention to welcome and include transgender students in our community. This included providing appropriate accommodations and a supportive residential environment for those who are boarders.

In February of 2017, the Friends Council on Education issued a statement affirming that, consistent with the Quaker testimony of equality, Friends schools strive to create communities inclusive of all students, including transgender and gender non-binary students.

Last spring, the Friends School League (FSL) also adopted a similar policy regarding the inclusion of transgender and gender non-binary students into athletics programs among FSL schools.

All of these developments reflect a deep commitment on the part of George School and other Friends schools to foster healthy and diverse educational communities by valuing, respecting, and drawing upon the richness of differences to strengthen our education. This commitment stems from the very underpinnings of Quakerism that include teaching there is that of God in every person, that all people are equal and deserve equal respect and treatment, and that healthy communities are those that accept and nurture differences.

George School is a rare place. Here, people of many identities, from around the world, live, learn, and play together. Being a George School community member entails engaging with new and sometimes uncomfortable perspectives. This can be hard work, but the effort is an important one that will help us diligently mind the Light and prepare us to do good inside our school community and beyond.

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Filed under Faculty, Head of School, Life After George School, Parents, Students

Why I Chose the IB Program

2017-05-22-15

Teacher Kathy Rodgers helps with a class assignment. 

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

When I was about twelve, I started thinking about college. I was not sure of much, but I knew I wanted to go far, possibly even outside the country. My mom has a few friends who live in California and the school their kids go to offers the International Baccalaureate diploma. I first heard of it over the phone when I was in seventh grade. I looked it up and was drawn into the information I found.

The idea of having six subjects and having an equal balance in each interested me. At first, I worried about the arts, but I figured out that I could double in a subject to replace it. After thinking about it for a couple of months, I talked to my mom about my findings. I was really interested in getting this diploma. I was convinced it would make me a better student and wanted the opportunity to engage in this deeper level thinking.

She gave me the green light to go ahead and research schools. That’s actually how I found George School. When I got here, I was not sure what would happen. I did not know if I would change my mind and drop the IB idea. But two years later, I am a likely IB candidate. I plan to take two standard level exams, Spanish and Economics, and four higher level exams, English, Latin, Math, and Biology. The rest of my classes are a sprinkling of APs. I am doubling in language and not taking an art.

I know this is going to be very difficult, but I am prepared. The IB diploma is something I have been working towards for three years now. I love the thought of learning to think critically. I am anxious for a chance to write essays of deeper level thinking. I want to learn, but I don’t want to focus in one subject. I want to be a well-rounded academic and I feel like IB offers me more resources to do that.

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Filed under A Day in the Life, Student Work, Students, The Curious George

Arizona – Day 12

by Precious ’18

It’s day twelve on our trip in Arizona and school has ended, but it’s not over yet.

Today, we went to go help a friend of a friend (Leena’s brother, Jerome) on his farm. Unfortunately, because of poor weather the corn they had been growing didn’t grow well. So our job was to help replant the corn and weed the farmland. Oddly enough tumbleweeds are really strong. They don’t just tumble in the air like in western movies. Weird, right? Another group went to dig up tumbleweeds that may affect the corn that were planted. It took a few hours to complete both jobs.

After working hard through the early hours of the morning, we were rewarded with watermelon and hugs as thanks for helping out on the farm. Hugs are more rewarding than I thought. The group then visited a flea market in Tuba City. It was very hot and we were all sweating by the end of it. Many of us bought items such as blankets and jewelry. We then went back to the townhouse to go swim at the Kayenta Elementary School. It was very refreshing after hours of hard work in the fields.

There was also an opportunity to go to a powwow, and three people in our group danced in the middle of the circle to celebrate the Navajo veterans. Since we were hungry after, we went to the restaurant called The View, which is right near Monument Valley. We all had an amazing view while we were eating.

It was a great day all around, and we’re glad we could help one more person as our trip is rounding up. We’ll see everyone soon.

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Arizona

By Owen 

On Thursday after school the group took a day trip to Monument Valley, we drove through the valley in our SUVs which probably were not designed for the type of off-roaring the monument Valley loop included. For dinner we are at the View hotel, many of us had Navajo tacos and frye bread, one of our first experiences of actual Navajo cooking. On Friday morning we left for the Grand Canyon we hiked the Bright Angel trail which was approximately 1.5 miles down into the canyon and 1.5 miles back up. The hike was possibly the longest 3 miles anyone in our group had experienced. On Saturday we went on a float trip of Glen canyon, the bus ride to the docks included a trip through a U tunnel. The float trip itself was peaceful as we learned more about geology of the canyon as well as some facts about the shrouding and Native American history. The float trip paused at as a sandy beach on the river bank, where we got the chance to jump into the 47 degree water like typical George School students. On Saturday for dinner we went to Dam Bar and Grill, which was delicious. Sunday before leaving Page, AZ we stopped at Walmart to purchase school supplies for our kids at school. We also toured the Lake Powell Dam before heading back to Kayenta. I personally did not go on the tour, but heard it was interesting. For lunch on Sunday we stopped at a Texas BBQ restaurant which was in an old gas station building. We were forced to sit outside because we were a group of 15, but the canopy over the outdoor seating provided ample shade. The BBQ was delicious and he restaurant lived up to the standards of a classic Texas BBQ joint. It was a welcome end to our weekend in Page.

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Costa Rica

by Kim Major 

As we sit on the runway in Atlanta it’s hard to not feel a bit wistful for the trip that is on the cusp of its finale. No gallo pinto tomorrow. No strong and amazingly flavorful coffee. No monkeys, exotic birds, or the deepest of greens all around. No smiles and holas from Erick and Enrique our guide and driver. No new adventures around the corner with sights that make me draw my breath in with a not-so-silent gasp.

No, it is back to life as I knew it. But, really, it’s not. Just like the students with whom I travelled, this experience has changed me. In our reflections, we often asked our students to frame their Costa Rica experience with a series of “what” questions: WHAT did I do (narrative), SO WHAT – how did this experience impact me, NOW WHAT – now that I’ve learned this, what will I do with this knowledge.

The WHAT has been thoroughly and beautifully covered by trip participants throughout the blog. I think the SO WHATs have been scattered with subtle awe throughout as well. For our students, I think the NOW WHAT is still forming – it won’t be until after re-immersion into day-to-day life that the impact can truly be known. As for me, over the course of the last 12 days, the NOW WHATS have come to me in dribbles and then, at times, in waves of what I like to call BFOs (blinding flashes of the obvious). Writing this blog entry gives me the opportunity to try to collect them in some coherent way. So here goes…

I studied French in school a long (very long) time ago. Aside from the occasional adios, I knew no Spanish. So, for months before the trip I tried my best to teach myself the basics of the language. After putting that to practice [some] and hearing it spoken all around me, I realized I want to learn the language not for the trip or future travel but because it is beautiful and I want to be the person who knows multiple languages, not the one who thinks everyone should speak mine. Now what? Now I continue to study the language with greater depth.

I have led service trips before with another school, but never internationally. In fact, aside from Canada (and sorry, dear husband of mine, Canada does not count) I had never before traveled internationally. Before this experience, I thought my top travel destinations were typical sightseeing spots in Europe or pure “fun” beach or ski vacations. But after visiting the cloud forest in Monteverde and the remote beaches of Tortuguero, and after immersing myself in the culture of a community off the beaten path, what I really want in future travel is to go to the places not as well traveled. To see flora and fauna that may not exist if we do not care for the environment. Sure, I want some time reading a book on a beach, but just as much, I want to look for more eco and adventure travel experiences – particularly those that, like in Costa Rica, serve to both enhance the local economy and provide resources to protect the environment.

Speaking of the environment, I was blown away by how Ticos and Ticas respect the environment. Ticos practice an environmental stewardship model of environmentalism by conserving, appreciating and valuing nature as ancient cultures did. I love George School, and we do an OK job with recycling but we have so much more we can do—particularly in the dorms. As a dorm parent, I want to do more to encourage my residents to consistently recycle. I have always cared for and about our natural resources, but I know I can do a lot more.

A more subtle NOW WHAT came through reading student journals. Students often remarked that they thought they would do more service on the trip, and then later noted all the learning about themselves and the outside world that had taken place. A big lesson for me is that if I have the opportunity to chaperone service learning trips in the future (my hand is already raised to volunteer), I can do a better job of framing the goals. In reality, in an 11-day trip, the total impact of the service a group our size can do is small. Minuscule, really. But, that does not mean it doesn’t matter. However, the purpose of the trip is not just service in the community—it is promoting shifts in thinking. If our students push themselves out of their comfort zones, they expand their worldview and may be more likely to stretch themselves to help others in the future. If they gain deeper understanding of and appreciation for different cultures and communities, they are more likely to reach out to strangers because they have seen firsthand that the differences between people really are not as vast as they might think they are on the surface. If they stand in awe of nature in a new way, they are more likely to work to respect and steward the environment at home. Sure, beach cleanups, playground rejuvenation and school visits have meaning, but I argue that the most far-reaching change that comes from trips like ours is the change inside each of us. I hope to do a better job of articulating that on future trips.

I am sure that for me, like our students, more lessons will come to me as the summer progresses. Parents, I encourage you to talk to your children about their NOW WHATs. Ask them to go beyond the store of photos in their phones. Ask them to describe the trip beyond the lodge reviews and review of the sites. Ask them about the impact on themselves. I know I will continue to ask myself what change will come in me from the trip. For now, however, I am so grateful that George School views experiences like this one as critical for students, I am glad I was able to participate in THIS trip, with THIS group, at THIS time. It was magical. And, I am certain of two things. First, I will return to Costa Rica. While I know I saw, experienced, and appreciated so much, I also know that the next time around I will see, feel, appreciate, and respect the country and its people even more. Like reading a great book, in the first pass you see it in broad, beautiful and inspiring strokes. The second? You notice the details, the nuances, the hidden beauty and deeper meaning you missed the first time. Costa Rica inspired me to see its details and, if I am lucky, more of the details in the world around me at home.

The other certainty? By the end of the summer I will find the winning gallo pinto recipe….

Thank you, George School, and 2017 Costa Rica service learning trip participants for a trip I will never forget!

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Filed under dorm life, Faculty and Staff, Service, Students

Vietnam

by Julian

Today is our last day in Hanoi. We began with a visit to an orphanage in Bac Ninh, right outside Hanoi. Due to scheduling conflicts, we were not able to do as much service as we wanted to, but we still swept their courtyard clean and left a positive impact on the children there. The orphanage is currently taking care of 22 babies and a number of students who happen to be deaf.

Children of all ages with different abilities greeted us and watched us as we worked. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the babies there and I really admired the women who cared for them. Some of the babies had severe disabilities. Later in the afternoon, after a strange lunch with an overambitious host, we visited a highly prestigious high school in Ban Ninh. Their auditorium reminded me of George School’s, but it was decorated in red and had some busts of Ho Chi Minh and a few communist slogans. The school’s presentation of the opportunities they offer impressed me due to its location in a poor area of the city. I was overjoyed to interact with kids my age who were just as educationally apt as we were. We played games with the students and learned a lot about their everyday life at the school. Some of us exchanged social media info and they waved us good-bye with enthusiastic, kind gestures.

Later in the evening, we met up with Alex, my prefect this past year, who lives in Hanoi. His parents invited us all out to a very nice restaurant buffet/barbecue not far from our hotel. It was amazing to see my Vietnamese friends there (a few others from Hanoi/GS showed up) after two weeks of wanting to see them. We sang the George School hymn to Alex in honor of his graduation! I am excited to go back home, but I know I will miss moments like this one due to the quality of Vietnamese hospitality that we found in Hanoi and in every place we went.

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by | June 27, 2017 · 7:56 am

Vietnam

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by Tommy ’18

Today was the “free day” where we could go sightseeing and enjoy the city. As usual, we began with a delicious Skylark Hotel breakfast. After the satisfying meal, we hopped on the bus. We met our Vietnam-USA Society’s tour guide, Nga for the day. We headed to the taoist temple to see several shrines where people offered incense and food in an attempt to please the gods. We also witnessed two tai chi classes happening in the temple’s front courtyard. An annoying woman tried to sell us cheap fans for an atrocious amount of money. We next went to the West Lake buddhist pagoda. We saw more shrines where all statues of buddha were given offerings of fruit, cookies or money. After that, we treated ourselves to ice cream. The contrast between the temperature of my body and the ice cream resulted in a refreshing moment of balance for me. Devon went to a woman who was selling baby turtles and bought three of them. We walked over to the lake and threw them in, watching them swim away to freedom. We then boarded the bus and went for banh my or Vietnamese popular sandwiches on French bread. It was the perfect mix of ingredients. Since we were in a pedestrian district, we all walked around for about an hour. After we returned to the hotel, Paige, Juliette and I went clothes shopping around the Hoan Kiem Lake area, and ended up buying many articles of clothing. We ordered room service from the hotel. Paige and Juliette got pizza and I got a burger. I think burgers are the food that I miss the most from the USA. After dinner, we headed out to the night market and walked around the Hoan Kien area again. It was a much cooler night, the walk was very pleasant. We didn’t see a lot that interested us. We came back to the hotel and relaxed with some music in the girls’ room. At about 8:55 p.m., I headed down to my room and was totally exhausted, ready to go to bed.

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Filed under Service, Student Work, Students